Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for reviewing from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own, and I did not receive compensation beyond the copy of the book for posting this review.
I am grateful that I agreed to review Carry On with TLC Book Tours, because it is not a book I probably would have picked off the shelf. And all of the reasons that I probably would not have picked it off the shelf, also happen to be the very reasons why I got so much out of reading this book. It brought up a lot of things for me. It caused me pause. It made me reflect on many aspects of my own life, as a good read should. Here are the two main reasons why I wouldn’t have picked it up myself, why I am grateful I did, and also what came up for me while reading.
1) Carry On is a true story written by an ESPN journalist about high school wrestlers.
I was never really super into team sports in high school. I did one season of rec co-ed soccer and played one season on the JV-2 softball team with my sister and some friends just because our good friend was the varsity pitcher and we had nothing better to do… good times (that JV-2 is not a typo, I wasn’t even qualified for JV lol). I wouldn’t say I was anti-jock, but I most definitely didn’t identify with being sporty. The only “sport” I semi-stuck with before I found running was swimming; I was a lifeguard. But that is pretty much completely solitary. My freshman year I signed up for swim team and quit after the first meet. I just wanted to swim, not socialize.
I am just now learning that ESPN actually tells compelling and inspiring stories, not just annoying half time reports that make me grimace. Watching some ESPN documentaries, seeing the backstories of the American Olympians in Rio, reading this book… I’m beginning to understand the necessity of team sports. And if I am being honest, maybe back in high school I did want more than to swim. Maybe I wanted a swimming coach to care about me, and be proud of me. Maybe I wanted to feel a part of something. Maybe I would rather spend time after school doing anything other than going home. Before you start thinking “Are you really comparing your life circumstance to these kids?” continue reading.
2) I knew before I even received the book that this story would cause me to confront and examine my own privilege, and likely make me very sad.
I won’t lie, this book is not for the faint of heart. This is a true story about two black teenagers growing up in inner-city Cleveland, attending public high school in an era of attempted desegregation which only created further divides and devastated the already broken economy of the area. Leroy, a double amputee from a horrific train accident who lives with his grandmother, and Dartanyon, whose mother died when he was a child, is legally blind, and has no real place to call home.
What Fenn does extremely well in this book is convey Leroy and Dartanyon’s humanity. Despite the layers upon layers of setbacks, they are resilient throughout all of the adversity they face. It is truly remarkable.
I really appreciated how this book made me think about privilege in a different way. With everything currently going on in American in regards to systemic racism, police brutality toward people of color, the Black Lives Matter movement, and my best friend fighting the good fight for latino/latina equality in Arizona, white privilege has been on my mind, pervasively. I would say that I am a sensitive individual, and I am deeply affected by the content I consume. I choose not to watch the news and read articles instead, because the footage and photographs these days literally give me nightmares.
Through Lisa’s insightful observations, I saw privilege through a different lens. For example, two of my favorite activities are running and reading. They are core to my identity. I have never read such an in depth account of a person without legs or a person who can barely make out the shapes of letters. Or another example: my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings thanks to my education, and ability to express my emotions which was modeled by family members.
The main take away? The unbreakable resilience one can possess, no matter what circumstance, when you are lucky enough to have the bond of a strong human connection.
I want to keep this review spoiler free, so I will say that the one thing I wish I got more of is a peak inside Lisa Fenn’s deepest thoughts. There were some moments in the book where I wanted her to delve much deeper, but I suppose she is a journalist through and through and she does an excellent job of keeping the spotlight on Leroy and Dartanyon.
This book will give you goosebumps. This book will make you cry. So grab a tissue box, and start reading :).
If you want to read other blogger’s takes on Carry On, check out the other tour host reviews.
Tuesday, August 16th: Emerald City Book Review
Monday, September 19th: Reading is My Super Power